Drug Testing in New Zealand Without the Penalties
New Zealand has enshrined into law a one-year experiment allowing drug users to have illegal substances tested without penalty to ensure their authenticity and to weed out dangerous chemicals, journalist Natasha Frost reports for The New York Times.
The testers will not call the police. The drug users will not be thrown in jail. To tackle an endemic drug problem, New Zealand recently became what is believed to be the second country to formally legalise such drug checks, after the Netherlands.
More than 60 per cent of the samples tested by the independent drug-verification service KnowYourStuff in 2019 were MDMA, the illegal party drug known as Ecstasy, with LSD and cannabis the next most common drugs. Over the summer period, more than half of all samples tested were not what users expected, Sarah Helm, the executive director of the NZ Drug Foundation said, with many found to be potentially deadly synthetic cathinones, sometimes known as bath salts.
Helm said testing helped users make better, more informed decisions.
“There is no evidence to suggest that it encourages use,” she said. “What we have seen instead is harms being avoided, and better information about what drugs are out there.”
Original article by Natasha Frost, The New York Times, April 9, 2021.